BEND, Ore. - Schools and other government agencies rarely go public to refute rumors, especially of violence, in order not to end up spreading those rumors and unduly alarm the public -- or give anyone ideas.
But in the wake of Tuesday's shootings at a Portland-area shopping mall, Bend-La Pine Schools officials decided Thursday that there were just too many rumors of shootings or other violence planned at Mtn. View High School on Dec. 21 -- the day some believe could be the "end of the world."
So they decided, in what was reportedly a tough judgment call, to go public with what truth they and investigating police had found behind the reports -- absolutely nothing but rumors, at least so far. They also warned that those found to have started such rumors actually could face criminal charges.
Here's the "Rumor Control" statement they posted shortly before 5 p.m. on the district's Website, as well as on Facebook:
"Parents and students:
"Rumors about a threat to the safety of MVHS students have been circulating this week. Please know each report and each piece of information have been thoroughly investigated by Bend police officers and MVHS's administrators, including individual contact with those who posted things on Facebook like, "I've heard. . ." "Did you hear. . . ?" or "I heard that too. . . ."
"Any social media posting of a direct or indirect threat or any origin of such has yet to be substantiated in these investigations. Nothing has been found nor a lead uncovered that suggests this is anything but unsubstantiated information.
"Conversations about the end of the Mayan calendar on December 21 seem to be contributing factors. In addition, the rumor continues to morph as students in other schools talk among themselves.
"Bend Police say that the scope and ever-changing versions of the rumors have led to unsubstantiated claims. Even so, Bend Police continue to investigate every lead in an attempt to determine the origin of the rumors.
"We and Bend police take school safety very seriously. If a source of the rumor is found, potential charges could include more than 1400 counts of computer crimes, disorderly conduct and harassment.
"This situation serves as a good opportunity for each of us to continue to empower our students to have open dialog with us about their education, their lives, and their school's safety. Today, and any day, if you hear or see anything that seems out of the ordinary, please call 9-1-1 so that we can investigate immediately."
The statement drew dozens of "likes" on Facebook, and in response to one comment, the district added that "we have -- and will continue to have -- increased police presence at our schools. If you drive by, you might see an extra officer walking around, or even doing paperwork in their cars."